Siebel fires up integration engine

SAN FRANCISCO (10/10/2003) - Buoyed by a hosted product and partnership, Siebel Systems Inc. is reinvigorating its focus on the UAN (Universal Application Network) integration platform.

But users and analysts said that UAN must reduce integration costs to become a worthwhile IT investment.

Speaking at the Siebel User Week show this week, Chairman and CEO Tom Siebel said the UAN architecture will broaden the reach of the company's CRM offerings. It will also serve as a services-oriented architecture that facilitates analytics and prepackaged vertical-industry business processes.

Siebel said that the Siebel 7.7 CRM and Analytics platforms announced last week will increasingly rely on the integration capabilities of UAN, which was introduced less than a year ago.

"You will see this entire product evolve into a business process architecture," Siebel said.

Whereas Siebel Analytics Server provides native integration to various data sources, including databases and data warehouses, UAN focuses on the integration of transactional data, said Larry Barbetta, vice president and general manager at Siebel's analytics group.

"If you want to change a customer record, you would use UAN, and it can ripple it out across 14 different applications," Barbetta said.

Siebel has upped the ante on UAN by announcing support for IBM Corp. WebSphere and Microsoft Corp. BizTalk.

Ken Rudin, vice president and general manager at Siebel's OnDemand group, said UAN will also serve as a back-end architecture that facilitates integration for its new hosted CRM and analytics product, OnDemand.

UAN, however, still faces challenges.

Bharath Kadaba, vice president and general manager at Siebel's UAN group, said that of 34 beta customers six are now live on UAN since it launched in November 2002.

Kadaba attributed the low figure to the complexity involved in application integration and to the product's short time in the market.

Denis Pombriant, CRM analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc., said UAN won't have a competitive advantage for long.

"Companies as diverse as SAP and have an integration strategy. The question is, How do you do the integration in a cost-effective and timely manner?" Prombriant said.

At Siebel User Week, an IT executive from a large pharmaceutical company said UAN will succeed only if it lowers integration costs.

UAN "will make integration a lot simpler because you can use UAN for updating customer records or accounts receivable. Just plug it in. It brings a level of standardization instead of having to write one-off code every time," said the IT executive, who wished to remain anonymous.

Aderdeen's Pombriant agreed.

"We are not simply talking about data integration but a richer integration at the process level. Some are calling that federated integration for standards that connect applications," he said.

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